The pilot who is believed to have deliberately crashed his light aircraft into the ocean was employed flying jets for Qantas.
Struggling with a broken marriage, Paul Whyte rented a light aircraft from a flying club in Lismore, made one final phone call to his daughters and disappeared into the ocean six nautical miles offshore from Byron Bay late on Monday afternoon.
Authorities refused to provide any details of the tragedy, a move which has infuriated Northern Rivers Aero Club president Bill Kiernan, the man who leased the aircraft to Mr Whyte.
Mr Kiernan told The Gold Coast Bulletin the Australian and International Pilots Association had tried to silence him, warning him not to tell anyone Mr Whyte was a Qantas pilot.
“I was warned not to say he flew for Qantas but I told them I’ll say whatever I want, because it was the truth,” he said.
“I won’t be (expletive) over by a bunch of bureaucrats.
“They need to face up to reality.
“The family knows what is going on and the worst thing about this is the innuendo — it is better to put the bullshit to rest.”
Police say he sent one final text message to his family as he plunged his Cessna 172 into a death-spiral into the waters off northern NSW.
Qantas went silent, initially refusing to even confirm Mr Whyte worked for them.
Yesterday the national carrier eventually conceded he was employed by them but still refused to reveal when the troubled father of two last commanded a commercial flight.
Qantas also refused to answer questions about how the company looked for warning signs that pilots were flying while mentally unstable.
Yesterday the family home looked to be deserted, with the windows covered with cardboard.
A note pinned to the front door said, “Family are requesting privacy at this very sad time.”.
The revelations come one year after pilot Andreas Lubitz killed 150 people by intentionally crashing a Germanwings plane near the French Alps.
Mr Whyte’s Cessna 172 left Lismore at 4.20pm and AirServices Australia lost contact with it about 4.50pm.
NSW police believe the plane hit the ocean at “high speed” and will prepare a report for the coroner.
They also confirmed the death was “not suspicious”.
Richmond Local Area Command chief inspector Cameron Lindsay said the search for the wreckage would be difficult.
“What we’ve been told by experts is the plane was travelling at a very high speed when it impacted the water,” he said.
“It’s in a very deep part of the ocean there and is beyond the capabilities of the police divers, so now we have to look at the use of submersible vehicles.”
Mr Whyte told News Corp reporters nine years ago he moved from Sydney to a small duplex in Lennox Head to escape the rat race and “live in a society”.
Sadly, in the past 12 months he separated from his wife and moved into a rented home a few streets away from the family home.
His new next-door neighbours said they could often hear him swimming in the pool with his daughters on the rare occasion he was home.
The last person to see Mr Whyte alive described the him as “calm” and “relaxed” before he boarded the light aircraft.
Northern Rivers Aero Club pilot trainer Bob Snape said Mr Whyte casually strolled towards the runway in the afternoon, making small talk about his children.
“He was running late because he was on the phone to his daughter,” he said.
“He was really calm and relaxed and we were just casually chatting about other pilots we knew.
“It was the first time I met him but he seemed like a nice guy.”
Original article can be found here: http://www.goldcoastbulletin.com.au A light aircraft set to land at Lismore Aerodrome last night has disappeared.
A land, air and sea search was conducted in the Byron Bay and Ballina areas last night about 9.45pm but the plane has not been located.
It is not known how many passengers were in the aircraft.
The search continues this morning.
The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter completed a search off the coastline from Ballina to Byron last night using Night Vision Goggle equipment as well as homing for any possible Emergency Locator Beacon.
There was no sighting or detection of the overdue aircraft during the search.
Original article can be found here: http://www.couriermail.com.au
Authorities are searching for a light plane that failed to return to a northern New South Wales airport after a local flight yesterday.
Rescuers said the plane took off from Lismore Aerodrome between 7:00pm and 8:00pm, but did not return.
A rescue helicopter was called to the site about 9:00pm and has been searching the area without success.
It is believed that one person was on board the plane at the time it disappeared.
The Australian Search and Rescue Centre tasked the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter with searching for the plane on Monday night.
A statement from the rescue service said there was no sighting of the plane, and the helicopter returned to base about 11:00pm.
Rodger Fry, from the rescue service, said the search started again at 8:00am this morning.
"What was reported to us was that there was a light aircraft that went off radar around that time [9:00pm] or earlier in the evening around the Byron Bay area," Mr Fry said.
He said the search last night focused on the coastline between Ballina and Byron Bay.
"What we had to do is conduct a visual search as best we can at night, with night vision goggles, and we also dropped a spoke in the ocean to check for any possible Emergency Beacon, from there they were able to ascertain this morning a search area between Ballina and Evans for [the] aircraft," Mr Fry said.
"All information is being sent to the Australian Search and Rescue Centre in Canberra."
Original article can be found here: http://www.abc.net.au